My not so happy review of the Happy Book Reviews service

I listen to the Sell More Books Show podcast. I love listening to the self-publishing indie news they cover every week. Some weeks are lighter than others, but it’s a great way to keep up with all the changes in the industry.

The show is hosted by Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral who are also hosting the 2nd annual Sell More Books Show summit I’m delighted to attend next year in Chicago.

Bryan does a lot for the indie community. He’s published several non-fiction books including How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis,  a book I recommend regularly, as I use it every time I need to write a blurb. He also runs a business based off that book, in case you ever feel like you just can’t write another synopsis.

Jim Kukral also does a lot for the author community: creator of Book Marketing Club, he also founded and curates the Happy Book Reviews website.

I went into the brief history of these gentlemen because I trust them and I admire all the hard work they do for us indies.

But sometimes things don’t work as well as they could, or should, and Jim’s Happy Book Reviews is one of those things.

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As indies, we all want those five-star reviews for our books. 

At $25.00, he promises to put your book in front of thousands of readers who want to download your book for free and leave a review. This sounds great! At this low fee, my book was available for twenty-five downloads on a first come, first serve basis, to people who would read it and review it with no obligations for me to do the same.

It really could be a boon for us authors who need reviews for that social proof we’ve written a good book.

But my enthusiasm waned the moment I received the email that contained the newsletter that featured my book.

In the whole month my book was available for download, my book was downloaded twice. Yep. Twice. Out of twenty-five copies available.

There were, in my opinion a few reasons for this:

When you sign up, you’re encouraged to sign up for the newsletter. This seems like a no-brainer because you want to see what your book looks like in the newsletter. But as my friend Aila points out–if all the recipients of the newsletter are other indie
authors . . . writers don’t read. If they do, they are helping out their friends by beta-reading or acting as a critique partner. Jim promises he’ll put your book in front of readers, but I suspect that what he’s doing is putting your (and my) book in front of a whole lot of indie authors. Who don’t read other indies, at least, not for pleasure.

The first email went into my Promotions tab and not my inbox. You can fix this, of course, but how many emails do people miss because their email marks the newsletters as ads? (Which, technically, they are.)

Happy Book Reviews will take anything. I’d never speak negatively about someone else’s work, but I have to admit, I was appalled at the company my book kept. I try to be professional in all ways. And while my books may look indie (there’s really no help for that no matter how good you are) some of the books featured in that newsletter looked downright cruddy. Jim will accept any book when what he should be doing is vetting them. While the information isn’t available to me, I wonder how many readers unsubscribe when they see the lack of quality in these books.

quality control

Someone needs to be in charge of quality control

 

**I can understand why he doesn’t do this. Jim and Bryan frequently talk about gatekeeping and I realize Jim doesn’t want to be in the position of determining what is “good.” But I don’t think this is any different than any other promo site where they only allow in quality books. They have a readership to keep happy, and offering them schlock is not the way to go about it. Someone, somewhere, will always play God, and with the products and services Jim, as a book coach, offers, he’s in a better position than some to determine what is “good.”

Only the blurb is available. I know it would take up more space or cost more to send it out the newsletter, but it would help if a potential reader could read the first couple pages of the book they’re considering downloading. It would have helped me avoid the boring contemporary romance I downloaded 1) because I wanted to try the service myself and 2) the cover and blurb looked okay.

The newsletter isn’t broken up into genres. My book sat next to children’s books, paranormal romance, thrillers, and history books. If he could separate the books into genres that could help readers find the books they like. I had a positive Freebooksy experience because of this.


The time for my book has run out, and there’s no time limit for those two people who have downloaded my book to leave a review. So I’m not even sure if those two people who downloaded my book will come through. But $25.00 for two reviews is too much.

I know why Jim will never do any of my suggestions–it’s too much work. He’s a savvy businessman, and I’m sure these suggestions have been brought up to him by other people in the past.

But it must work for some authors, or he’d close down the website. Everyone who uses his service can’t have the experience I did, or his inbox would be full of complaints.

Maybe I’m a black sheep, but somehow, I don’t think so. Wherever He Goes is a solid book. Anyone who reads the first page knows I don’t head hop, I don’t have any typos, and my inciting event happens on the first page of the book. Not Chapter 4.

Unfortunately, I do not feel like my book fit in with the others featured, and unless he makes changes, I won’t be using his service again.

You may have a different experience, and at $25.00, it’s a cheap risk. But I’m also aware that $25.00 could buy you two paperback books, five Starbucks coffees, or could reimburse a beta-reader for her time. If you’re poor, $25.00 can go a long way, so you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the risk.

My blog is about my experiences with the services offered to indies, and my adventures in publishing my books. I want to help. This was my experience, and unfortunately, it could have been better.

I’ll still listen to the podcast (and I encourage you, too) and I’m looking forward to the meeting Jim at the summit.

But the Happy Book Reviews feature isn’t for me, and I wish you luck if you decide to ever give it a go.

My BargainBooksy Ad from last month. How did it do?

Well, apparently, not very well since I forgot to post the update. This time, this ad was a paid ad (meaning, my book wasn’t free), and I set the price of Wherever He Goes to .99. I thought, a dollar for a book, that’s pretty good, right? Heck, I spent three months working on it, I figured a dollar was a good price.

The problem is, with doing these ads, you just WON’T KNOW why your book doesn’t sell. It could be the cover, it could be your copy. It could just be that no one wants to pay. You never know.

So, in total, I sold 40 books on the day the newsletter came out and a couple days afterward. That is nothing compared to the 4,000 books I gave away during my Freebooksy ad I did back in February. You can read about that here.

june sales for bargainbooksy ad

As far as KU page reads are concerned, you can see that the newsletter created a bit of a spike, but nothing to write home about. And this is only for Wherever He Goes. My trilogy is still getting a few page reads, but I wanted to see what my ad would do for Wherever He Goes, and unfortunately, for 80 dollars, not much.

Here is what my ad looked like in the newsletter:

bargain booksy ad

Would I do this again? I haven’t made back what I spent on the ad, so it will be a while before I try something like that again.

What I need to focus on is getting reviews, but for using any legit reviewing services, I need to pull my book out of Select because the one review service I contacted distributes the books through Bookfunnel. Amazon considers Bookfunnel as a distribution platform and will yank you out of Select if they catch you using it.

For my next book, I’m going to place my book with a review service first, before putting into Select and see what happens. Hopefully, if I get some decent reviews that way, readers will give all my books a chance.

And I think if I ever do another promo with Written Word Media (Freebooksy/Bargainbooksy) I’ll do the free one, since I kind of feel like I got more bang for my buck. At least, it sounds better to say I gave away 4,000 copies than say I sold 40. It would be great if any of that had turned into reviews, but so far nothing significant on that end, either.

But, that is my experience with Bargainbooksy, and if you’ve tried them, and have gotten better results, let me know!

Thanks for reading!

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

 

The Wedding Date–A crabby book review

the wedding dateWhen I saw The Wedding Date at Target, I picked it up. The premise was a trope I have always enjoyed–a fake date that turns into a real relationship.

When Alexa meets Drew, it’s in a hotel elevator that has stalled. Drew is there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding. Alexa is at the hotel visiting her sister. They get to talking; sparks fly.  That she is black and he is white does nothing to the story. In fact, because the author does not use the character’s skin color as neither a negative or positive plot device, I forgot by the middle of the book they are even different in that way. I didn’t care, anyway.

Drew and Alexa are from different California cities, and throughout most of the book, they are flying back and forth to see each other on the weekends.

Drew is a pediatric doctor, and Alexa is the chief of staff for her city’s mayor. Their occupations are thrown into the plot as little side bits in an attempt to deepen their character arcs, and it doesn’t work that well. (More on that later!)

As most long-distance relationships go, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, and I have to admit by the middle of the book I started to skim.

The book ended how I would assume a romance would–happily ever after. And no, she didn’t relocate–he did. As a romance writer, I can appreciate the author made her male main character give a little, as a lot of times in books it is the woman who makes the compromises to keep the relationship going.

But also, as an indie writer and self-published author, I have to ask, “How the F did this get published?”

This is probably one of the most annoying things about traditional publishing. Traditional publishers can publish crap, while good indie writers can’t get an agent to save their lives.

I’m not saying this book is crap or didn’t deserve to be published–but I am saying this book could have used a lot more editing.

One thing that turned me off almost from the start was the use of repetitive words and phrases. As an indie, we’re taught word needs space–but this also includes phrasing. Can your female main character look up at your male main character 10 times a page?

Yes.

Does it read well?

No.

I would have loved to get ahold of her Word document and do a search for a list of “naughty” words.

Someone needed to because Drew kept putting his arm around Alexa’s waist, and every time I read it, it made me itch.

The story itself began to grow repetitive and mundane, and like I said, about the middle of the book I began to skim. There were only so many times I could read about them flying back and forth, having sex (that mostly faded to black, so I didn’t even have the sex scenes to look forward to) and taking the texts they sent each other when they weren’t together in the wrong way.

The ending came out the way I expected, but Alexa’s job, her sister’s backstory, and a kid with cancer made the plot some kind of soupy mess.

I want to be clear here. I am not blaming the author. She had a good premise, and she put forth a good effort.

Who I am blaming is her publishing house and the editing they failed to give her.

There are a few reasons for this:.

  1. They wanted to push the book out for marketing reasons or to catch a trend.
  2. Maybe the editor who acquired the book left the publishing house and little attention was paid to the book after that. (After listening to podcasts about the publishing industry I am surprised at how often this happens, and how much this hurts the author and the book.)
  3. The editor the author was stuck with was new or had too much on his or her plate.

No matter what the reason, however, it is frustrating for an indie author to buy a traditionally published book full of mistakes we are told to stop doing in our own work.

And it’s frustrating to know an author can get a book deal when indies who have stellar books in their possession can’t find agents.

There are probably reasons for this, too. She knew someone in the industry and she used her connections. She may have won a contest. Or simply, she just got lucky.

But that won’t give me my $13 back plus tax.

And I suppose the one thing that makes me the most upset is that the midlist is shrinking. Big publishers go for the big books, the books that will bring in millions like James Patterson’s and Bill Clinton’s The President is Missing.

Few midlist books are printed every year. In fact, there are imprints who publish digital only books like Carina Press. This is disappointing to an author who hopes to see their book on a shelf. Any shelf.  Even Target. Maybe especially Target. It’s not an accident the book section is across the aisle from Toys.

What can a writer hoping to query and publish a book take from all this?

That the publishing industry is broken?

We knew that already.

It says to me I may never want to be a part of a traditional publishing industry.

Because I expect that if Roxane Gay, who is a New York Times bestselling author, would be willing to blurb a book, and that book is a Target Club Pick, it’s going to be good and worth my money.

And again, this isn’t a blast on the debut novelist. It’s a blast on the publishing industry that would publish a book that needed so much more work.

I know books aren’t for everyone and this particular book, or perhaps even author because I’ll never read her again, just wasn’t my cup of tea. (I drink coffee anyway.)

But a scan of reviews on Amazon told me it wasn’t a cup of tea for others as well. (Who also may only drink coffee.)

Even someone reading The Wedding Date as a reader and not a writer can still say a book grated on their nerves even if they can’t pinpoint why.

I don’t expect to like every book I read–that’s a given. But with the resources of a large publishing house–this book was published by Jove, an imprint of Penguin–I shouldn’t dislike a book because of the editing or lack thereof.

jasmine guilloryI wish the best to Jasmine Guillory.  I hope she can come into her own as a writer without help or she seeks it out on her own (if she happens to read reviews) because her publishing house certainly isn’t going to give her any assistance.

What do you think of the plight of a first-time querying author? Do we have a chance, or should we just give up?

Let me know!

What People Don’t Tell You About Blogging

What people don't tell you about blogging.

 

When you first start out writing, or want to be writing, or want to be publishing, or whatever it is you want to do to sell books, poems, short stories, non-fiction, people tell you to blog as part of your platform. And that’s all fine and good. Blogging is fun, you’ll build an audience, a fan base, and your content will sell like hotcakes because they like your free stuff.

But then the questions start popping up. Where do I set up my blog? What do I blog about? How many times do I have to blog, per week, per month, per year? Where do bloggers get those awesome graphics? Are they expensive, do you have to make them yourself? How much are the pictures?

In my last blog post, I wrote about my lack of time, and I said I would give up blogging to write. Blogging is writing, but I don’t see it being a huge moneymaker some blogs can be. I don’t do affiliate links, I don’t support advertising on my website. Partly because I’m not popular enough to make any money from it, and partly because I don’t want to be known for my blog. I want to be known for my books.

But if you haven’t blogged yet, or need some tips to get your blog on track, here are a few that I’ve picked up, and a few that I’ve read about. Maybe you can turn your blog into something amazing!

 

Figure out who you want to blog for.

I blog for indie writers. I blog about non-fiction books I’ve read and liked, editing tips, publishing tips, formatting tips, making-your-cover tips. If it has to do with indie-publishing and writing, I’ve probably at some point blogged about it. And so have countless others. While we’re humans with different experiences, thoughts, and feelings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something in this area no one has written about yet.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (1)

That said, I wish I would have started blogging for readers. I would have blogged for my fans, my people who love my books. The problem is, when I started blogging, I didn’t have a book out yet. Was that detrimental to writing for my readers? Not really. I mean, your readers will want to know where your ideas come from, maybe how long it takes you to write your book. They like the cover reveals. And maybe if you’re prolific, you have a lot to write about. The problem with blogging for your readers, however, is that all that you’re blogging about should go into your newsletter. There is only so much content to go around, you know? At any rate, it doesn’t matter who you write to, as long as you make the choice and know what you’re getting into.

 

Decide what you want to blog about.

I’ve read that when you blog, you need to choose 3-5 topics and write about only those. Always. Your readers follow your blog for a reason. If you write about publishing tips and news, then your readers want that. Not your thoughts on Trump, or the rogue blog post about how sick your kid is. While I’ve been accused of not being personal enough, do people really care that I had a crappy day and didn’t get my words in? Maybe if I can turn it into a post about productivity even when you’re not feeling well. But no one cares if I have a cold and I watched six episodes of Castle while I ate a gallon of ice cream. Begin as you wish to continue. If you want a lifestyle blog, then find an audience for that kind of a blog. I know for me, (and I know everyone will like different things) if you get to personal one too many times, I won’t read your blog anymore. Not when I follow your blog for tips on publishing, your own experiences, what you found out, if you stumbled upon any shortcuts. I started your blog because I was interested in that. I don’t have enough time in my schedule to care if you had to take your dog to the vet. Sounds harsh, but I don’t care. I read blogs to further my own career. Write your blog assuming that of your readers as well.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (2)

***A quick word about turning your blog into an indie book review site: if you decide to do this, and you decide to be honest in those reviews. Be prepared for backlash. Posting a negative review of a peer’s book is never a good idea, and rarely can you find an indie book where you will have nothing bad to say about it. A good rule of thumb would be to have a policy such as, if a book would have gotten less than three stars, then don’t review it. It’s a personal choice that can come with big repercussions if you upset one too many people. On the other hand, if you only give out 5-star reviews and you’re reviewing crappy books, your credibility will tank. Fast. Trust is hard earned. Don’t lose it. You may never get it back.

 

Find a spot. 

I use WordPress because I like being part of the network. I don’t self-host, I let WordPress host my site because I don’t care about all the little extras you get with your website when you do that. I pay for my website address, and I pay for, I think, the business package so I can use some plugins. But if you don’t want WordPress, you can do Blogger, or Squarespace. My friend Aila did a great blog piece on Wix. WordPress was easy to set up, so I’ll recommend that. Plus the free templates WordPress make it easy to switch up your look when your site gets stale. As you add content (write books) it’s easy to add to your website. WordPress has been able to give me what I need, but it doesn’t matter where you blog. Just get an address and start producing content. Then tell everyone on social media about it.

 

Decide on consistency. 

The reason your blogging is to get your name out there, build your writer’s platform, attach a person to your brand. The more you blog, and the more people who read you, the easier it is to find you. When you Google “Self-Publishing Help” Joanna Penn’s name comes close to, if not to the very, top. Eventually, you want to get up there. Self-publishing help, top fantasy writer, the most popular romance writer. Whatever people search for, you want to be close to the top. This can take years and years and years–I think Joanna’s been blogging since 2008. She has every right to be at the top. But you want to at least stand a chance of being found in a search. That means blogging good content, consistently. This is easier said than done. I’ve heard advice to blog as much as you can when you’re first starting out. Every day if possible. Then when you start to have a following, you can ease back. I try for twice a week, but lately, I’m lucky if I can do twice a month. Even if you blog four times a month, always post on the same day so your readers will get to know your schedule and know when to look for new content. Do I do this? No. Should I? Yes. Do my blogging friends do this? Yes.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (3)

 

Where the hell do you get all those cute graphics?

Probably the best place for graphics is Canva.  Canva is cool. Just choose the size of the graphic you want, slap some text on a photo and there you go. Awesome. Canva has some great photos free to use, and I also use Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay. You may not be using the photos for anything, but I still try to make sure the photos I use are free for commercial use. It just takes the headache out of it, you know? If you want to see how I used Canva to pretty up some blog posts, look at my interview with KT Daxon. I made those quote graphics in Canva using quotes from her book. Also, see my interview with Aila Stephens. I made those graphics with the cute pictures of macarons and looked up the quotes to slap on them. This leads me to my final point:

 

Figure out how long you want to spend doing this.

I can’t concentrate on anything for too long. I’ve been going back and forth between Facebook and Twitter. But being distracted didn’t do me any favors, and I’ve already put two (okay, three because I went to the kitchen for a snack) hours into this blog post. And I haven’t prettied it up with graphics yet. You need to, because studies have shown, (no, I’m not making this up, but I’m not going to dig for it for you, either) that people consume content better when it’s accompanied by photos. You want to break up long-ass paragraphs of text anyway, so might as well add some pretty stuff to it. A lot of my blog posts come off as book reports, or just reports, heavily researched and referenced. There’s not often I don’t add a few links to someone else’s blog post. That’s a boon for you because you add valuable content to your blog, and it’s great for the other blogs because you are driving traffic to their sites as well. The blogging community is much like the writing community. To get any traction, you have to read others’ blogs, comment, and share. Once you start to get going in that, you’ll have others do the same for you.

What people don't tell you about blogging. (4)

 

Blogging can be fun, but it can be a drain. It can be discouraging when you feel like no one is listening to you. I’ve been at this for a while, and I still don’t feel like I reach many people. If you only have so many hours in the day, you’re better off writing your books. Chances are good if you start a blog in hopes for a book deal, it’s not going to happen. Blog because you want to, because you want to help others, because you want to share your writing journey. Blog because you want to be included in the writing community.

I’m going to bed now.

Until next time!

Important Reasons Authors Need to Think About Blogging by guest @kikimojo

3 Reasons Why You Should Be Blogging

Why You Should Start a Blog (Even If You’re Not a Writer)

The Continent~~Book Review

This book has had a bumpy start. No one in the publishing industry or Writer Twitter missed all the controversy surrounding this book and the original ARCs people had been able to read last year.The Continent

While I acknowledge that, (I was not one who read an original ARC) those controversies and/or original content of the book are not what this review is about.

I admit I read The Continent primarily because Ms. Drake is a friend of mine on Facebook, and I was curious to see what the book was about. I’m not able to make comparisons between the original content and what was actually published, but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed The Continent.

The book is about Vaela Sun, a 16-year-old girl who is given a tour of The Continent by her parents as a birthday gift. The Continent is home to two peoples, the Xoe and the Aven’ei. Their history is filled with war and violence.

Tours of The Continent are made to view these peoples and their constant war, as war and violence in that extreme are a novelty to the people of the Spire, where Vaela Sun lives and has grown up.

During the tour, Vaela’s plane goes down. Though her parents and their traveling companions perish in the crash, she survives and must make a new life on The Continent.

Luckily, she is taken in hand by Noro, and he, along with his Aven’ei friends, welcome her.

The threat of the Xoe is never far, and we watch as Vaela tries to meld the peace she’s grown up within the Spire to the violence she must tolerate and learn in order to survive.

I’ve read of the racial issues this book supposedly (I say supposedly because again, I haven’t read the original manuscript) contained, and I witnessed none of that here. Race (skin color) of the people of the Spire, Xoe, and Aven’ei take distance place to the story.

We see Vaela lose one family, but with her strength and determination, and never a loss of faith that life can be better, we see her find another.

Vaela learns a lot of lessons during her time on The Continent. The past doesn’t always lay the groundwork for a pleasant future. People deserve second chances, no matter what they’ve done. And with strength and perseverance, something beautiful can always be found in something ugly.

This book is no different. Do not judge this book on what you know or what you think you know about its history.

The Continent is beautiful. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry.

And you will definitely want to find out what happens next.

Follow Kiera on Facebook, here.
Follow her on Goodreads, here.

And full disclosure, this is the 4-star review I left on Amazon. I was feeling a bit stabby and snarky, and a bit defensive on Keira’s behalf.
Enjoy!

This isn’t a verified purchase because I bought my copy at Barnes and Noble. (LIke you all should, if you don’t want the only remaining bookstore in America to close.)
Anyway, I’ve read the reviews, and this book ISN’T THAT BAD. There isn’t anything racist about this book, and there is not any “white savior” crap going on.
Vaela gets trapped there, okay, yes. And she saves those people, yes. But the fact that everyone is missing is, SHE FELL IN LOVE. She fell in love with Noro, she fell in love with his sister, Kiri, and she fell in love with the rest of the Noro’s people. She made friends, she became one of them. In the end, she was saving her own people.
There’s a lot of talk about her stupidity, and her naivety, but you know, most people who grow up with money are like that. And you can argue all you want against it, but Paris Hilton made herself a brand based on being spoiled, and the Kardashians are doing the same thing.
I’m not arguing that Vaela didn’t have a lot to learn, but her learning that the Spire was not all she thought it was, or that she finally understood she was a spoiled rich kid with an erroneous viewpoint of the Continent’s peoples, were part of the lesson, part of the character growth, part of the plot arc. She crawled to them and begged for help on behalf of her new family, and she was denied. It opened her eyes. And it made her grow up.
Anyone who complains this is slow–hey! It’s part of a trilogy. There are going to be unanswered questions.
Anyone who didn’t like it based on silly little things like, where did that Xoe Warrior find his orange?? How old are you? This is a YA novel. If you want a more complex plot, go read Sing, Unburied, Sing, or Lincoln in the Bardo, or Manhattan Beach. Those might be more up to your delicate sensibilities.

Bared to You by Sylvia Day–A book review

Warning: This review contains spoilers and may contain triggers as the review refers to child molestation.

After the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, numerous books that copied characters and plot were published as quickly as writers could produce them.

crossfire seriesThe Crossfire Series is one of these series. comprised of four novels, I read Bared to You, the first.

The book is about Eva and Gideon, how they meet, their issues, backstories, and all their flaws.

You can’t help but compare Bared to You to Fifty Shades by the very first page, and I do not resist. Eva meets Gideon by literally falling on her ass, and later stumbling into his office, ala Anastasia Steele.

Gideon Cross, seemingly owning half of New York, is extremely emotionally damaged, not to mention drooling hot. I won’t waste time going into how much more or less he’s like Christian Grey because it doesn’t matter. Either you liked Fifty Shades enough to read these or you didn’t. So if you liked Fifty but were put off by the poor writing, you may like the Crossfire Series as they hold similar plot elements and characters, but they are better edited.

Eva is also emotionally damaged, unlike Ana, who was just innocent and naive. Eva has a heartbreaking backstory, and anyone who has triggers regarding children being raped and molested by step-siblings should steer clear of this book.

I do find it rather odd that while Eva has been in therapy most of her life to deal with being sexually assaulted at age ten until she was fourteen by her older stepbrother (and her mother only finding out about it because Eva was brought to the ER for a miscarriage), she has a mainly healthy attitude towards sex. I guess she would have to because she and Gideon do it all the time.

As natural pacing of a four book series, we find Gideon also has a heartbreaking backstory as well, but Day does not reveal what it is saving some secrets for later books.

Overall, if you like Fifty Shades of Grey, and want more of it, by all means, give the Crossfire Series a try. I read Bared to You, but I will not be reading the others. Day, like James, counted on emotional upheaval to keep readers turning pages, and all Eva and Gideon do is fight and have makeup sex.

As perhaps someone who is too old to be reading the series, I need more. More plot. More character motivation.

If they truly do love each other, as they say they do by the middle of the book, then the small spats Day gives such weighty importance to should not do the damage they do.

Maybe books two through four will have more . . .  something, but I don’t need to find out.

 

Genre-hopping: Why writers do it and should they?

Writers need to genre-hop. We need to explore what we like to write and how we want to write it.

I genre-hopped. I stayed within romance, but I explored romantic fantasy and erotica. I explored enough that I knew I didn’t want to write them anymore–and that is the whole point of genre-hopping. I settled into contemporary romance, and that’s where I’ll stay.

But say you want to build your writing career, actually make some money selling your books. It’s important to your customers they know what they are getting when they think of your name. Like what Stephen King is to horror, or what Danielle Steele is to romance, you want to build your brand on your name and be consistent with what you’re selling.

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Do readers really know what they are getting when they buy one of your books?

I remember clicking on a romance author on Amazon. I can’t remember her name, and I wouldn’t call her out anyway, but she had several books published. When I went through them, though, some were written in first-person, some in third. Some in present tense, some in past. Maybe you like her third person past books, but when she releases a new book or if you try to read through her backlist, you may not always like what you buy. Maybe then you don’t read it, or you slog through it because you spent money on it and you don’t want it to go to waste.

Is this how you want your readers to feel about your work?

I started thinking about this because I wondered how the big names do it. How did Stephenie Meyer go from the Twilight series to The Host to The Chemist? Was it seamless for her because adults read Twilight, so her adult fiction wasn’t a departure from her original work? Or did she lose millions of readers because the teenagers enamored by Edward and Bella had no use for her adult fiction?

Is genre-hopping like jumping from a cliff--career suicide_

Photo by nour c on Unsplash

I think about Nora Roberts, too. She writes under a pen name as well, but under Nora Roberts, she writes contemporary romance with maybe a bit of paranormal or magic thrown in. She’s well known for her trilogies, and she has many contemporary standalones to her credit. But her newest release under her name is a post-apocalyptic called Year One. Does Nora have a big enough audience that they will read whatever she writes, or will she lose readers who are not interested in a new genre? Would she have been better off releasing this new book, which is the first in a trilogy, under a new pen name? I guess until reviews and sales numbers come in (there are a few 1-star reviews that indicate that some readers aren’t happy she took a detour), we won’t know. I admire her for spreading her writing wings and trying something new, and by now, maybe she doesn’t care if her career takes a ding because she took a chance.

No matter how much I preach you have to write with your reader in mind, you still have to like what you’re writing.

There are other reasons for genre-hopping, but you have to decide if it’s right for your brand:

1. Maybe the genre you write in is dead or not selling. Trends come and go, and if you can quickly write a book and publish it, perhaps you can ride the high of the next new thing.

2. You’ve depleted your ideas. Maybe you have no choice because if you didn’t genre-hop, you wouldn’t be able to write anymore.

3. Maybe a complete plot fell into your head, and you don’t want to waste the idea.

4. You have an opportunity to collaborate with an up-and-coming author in a different genre, and you are excited by the chance of exposure.

One of the problems I see indies having is they aren’t thinking about their books as abusiness for authors business. Joanna Penn, on a podcast I listened to a while back, said her Business for Authors book is her poorest selling book and she can’t understand why. I know why–because indies don’t like to think of their books as a business (yet they are quick to pout when their books don’t sell).

Think of this analogy: Say you have a favorite chocolate store; you go there all the time. You know the owner, you love the chocolate. But one day you take the time to drive there, and they don’t sell chocolate anymore. The store is full of baseball cards. You get disgusted, not to mention confused AF, and leave.

Do you go back? Maybe once to see if they started selling chocolate again, but when you find out that they haven’t, you won’t go back.

Or maybe you want your books to be like a flea market. Something for everyone. Or will you end up with nothing for no one? You never know what you’ll find at a flea market.

I used to be super against genre-hopping, and for my brand, I still am. I want to be known for contemporary romance written in the third person. When I use the pre-order feature, I want my readers to get excited that I have a new book being released because they’ll know exactly what kind of book it will be.

I don’t want my readers to look at my pre-order like it’s a white elephant sale.

If you decide to genre-hop and publish under your name, you’ll have to market it differently, and you’ll have to be prepared for readers to be unhappy if they inadvertently read something they didn’t mean to. Take this comment from this blog post:

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Her reluctance to use a pen name is costing her reviews. Well, one, but maybe more in the future. Where do you cross the line between knowing you need a pen name, or not to genre hop, and when to keep going? You would think that readers would be able to tell between racy and sweet by looking at the covers, reading the blurbs. But on the same token, don’t you want everyone who likes you to read everything you ever write?

Unfortunately, I paid for the ISBN numbers for the genre-hopping books I published. Maybe one day I’ll yank them because as my backlist grows, they will not fit into my library. It’s the price I’ll have to pay for not thinking ahead, or for experimenting and actually publishing them.

Maybe you won’t care, and that’s okay. We all do what we need to do to achieve our goals.

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Where do you want your book business to go?

So think where you want to be in five years, in ten. How will your genre-hopping fit into your plans?

It’s never too early to plan–or do damage control.

Do you have thoughts on genre-hopping and pen names? Let me know!

Other articles about genre-hopping:

Genre Glue

Thinking About Writing in Multiple Genres? Here’s What You Need to Know

The Pros and Cons of Switching Genres — Guest: Summerita Rhayne

Happy writing Vania Margene